San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Landmark Legislation in 2009

Changes to the Electoral Code: Just in time for the 2010 election, current officeholders agreed to introduce new legislation governing the election process. Among the changes are a reduction in the amount of state aid directed toward elections, restrictions on who can donate to campaigns and elimination of the long-standing dry law. Perhaps the most tangible of these reforms is the removal of the prohibition against the sale of alcohol on the day before elections, on election day and the day following.

Immigration Reforms: Legislators and top administrators undertook an extensive reform of the immigration laws, approving a new law in early August. The aim was to make the process simpler and less cumbersome for foreigners with the hope of prompting more people to legalize their status, but – at the same time – discouraging immigration by raising fees. Changes to the law include a new requirement for those renewing their residency to show proof of contributions to the Costa Rican Social Security System, stricter rules against falsified marriages, higher income requirements for those living in Costa Rica as rentistas or retirees and the elimination of the need to consult with a consulate in the applicant’s home country during the application process. More details relating to the immigration reform can be found at The Tico Times blog. Follow the links from

Peace Ministry: Building on its reputation for peace, Costa Rica became one of the few countries in the world to have a Peace Ministry after legislators approved its creation in late August. The new ministry will be combined with the existing Justice Ministry and will be charged with promoting peace programs among youth groups and other institutions.

Revitalizing Limón: The tired Caribbean port city of Limón got a long-awaited jumpstart this year when legislators approved a $72.5 World Bank loan to revitalize the area. The project – intended to be a public/private collaboration – proposes to renovate historic buildings and parks, redo the ports, re-route shipping traffic onto an alternative route and make the city more liveable and tourist-friendly.

–Chrissie Long

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